Tend One Way [on KS Friday]

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This is what I’ve learned. Boil away the rules and regulations penned into the great spiritual traditions and you will find they all pretty much say the same stuff:

~presence is not something you can seek because you are already present. What else? It is not a matter of finding it as much as realizing it. Fear is a story in your head and will always split you into yesterday and tomorrow. I’ve learned: get out of your head.

~in this dual-reality world you can make sense of your life in one of two ways. You can either put the accent on separation (us/them, right/wrong, rules and regulations) or you can put the accent on unity (love, the middle path, relationship). You will most likely dance between these two in a miracle of creative tension. Sometimes you will feel alone, self-righteous and under assault (separate). Sometimes you will feel connected and a part of something bigger than your little self (united). Eventually, you will tend one way or the other. I’ve learned: either way, you will make meaning of your limited days on earth according to where you place the accent. “God” has nothing to do with the choice you make. That is all on you.

Mostly I’ve learned: it is the lucky few who are able to see that fear is the story in their head that always splits them (separation). The love-path opens when we get out of our heads and into our hearts (unity).

The title of Kerri’s hymn album is Always With Us. This beautiful hymn, played beautifully, is called Be Thou My Vision. Listen. Kerri just might help you, for a moment, stand in your presence (love), which is, of course, the only real way of getting out of your head. Thus, the real power of the arts and the extraordinary gift of this great artist.

 

BE THOU MY VISION on the album ALWAYS WITH US is available on iTunes & CDBaby

 

read Kerri’s blog post about BE THOU MY VISION

 

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prayer of opposites. a perfect image for my lessons learned.

 

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be thou my vision/always with us ©️ 2004 kerri sherwood

 prayer of opposites ©️ 2004/2019 david robinson

Make Better Assumptions [on Two Artists Tuesday]

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As a kid, riding up the mountain to Central City (long before it morphed into a casino town) to visit my great aunt Dorothy and uncle Del, I’d always look for the hermit. With my face pressed to the window I’d scan for him.

Perched precariously high above the creek, his shack seemed in constant danger of sliding down the mountain. The only thing holding it in place was the cascade of rusting bean cans that he’d tossed over the edge after each meal. Decades of cans. And, every once in while, I’d catch a glimpse of him.

He was uniquely grey; his clothes, his long miner-forty-niner beard, his pallor. He was always standing still, looking over the canyon. I don’t think in all of my rare glimpses that I ever saw him move. I wondered if he’d just thrown a can over the edge. I wondered if in his moments of standing-stillness he pondered how he came to be the hermit in the canyon. If life forged him into a hermit or if he came into the world wanting to be alone. I wondered where he got his cans of beans. It was a great mystery that I spent long hours considering. Hermits are not known for shopping trips into town and it was long before the age of home delivery. Where did he get his money to buy all of those cans? Was he a wealthy miner, a Howard Hughes type who retreated into a paranoid seclusion? Who facilitated his solitude?

I am mostly an introvert so his retreat from society fascinated me. I’d try ‘hermit’ on like a costume. He wasn’t a monk though I wondered what he did all day; contemplation had to be on the list of things to do. I wondered if his shack was filled with paintings or wire sculpture, a reclusive Alexander Calder? A disenfranchised artist (now, there’s an oxymoron!) I wondered if his shack walls were lined with good books.

I wondered, if I climbed up the mountain to his shack, would he meet me with a shotgun and tell me to go away? Or would he welcome me and tell me that he’s waited a lifetime for someone to come for a visit? I liked the second scenario but the realist in me knew it would be the first. He was grey because he didn’t want to be bothered. He was alone because it was not safe to be in relationship. It’s always easier to close the door and growl than it is to open it and ask, “Can I help you?”

We see this sign often. It marks the door of a house on the road to one of our walking trails. In the absence of a canyon I suppose the only thing to do is paste your anger on your door. Every time I see this sign I wonder what would happen if love came knocking?

 

read Kerri’s blog post about GO AWAY

 

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Love The Mud [on Two Artists Tuesday]

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“It took me four years to paint like Raphael, but a lifetime to paint like a child.” ~ Picasso

It would seem to be a no-brainer. Mastery comes from a lifetime of doing. Trial and error. Malcolm Gladwell’s 10,000 hours rule: success is nothing more than practicing the task for many hours over many years. As the old joke goes, it’s how you get to Carnegie Hall.

Efficiency. Ease. Body knowledge. Body of Knowledge. Flow. Wisdom. The blossoms of a long-body of experiences. The farmer, over a lifetime of living and working the same plot of land, knows the signs that no one else can see. They sense the storm coming. They smell the time for planting. They waste no time; their 10,000 hours having developed a solid relationship, a kinship with their environment and work.

An artist, over a lifetime of living and working the same plot of music or paint or dance, knows the signs that no one else can see. Artistry is efficiency, a single line saying more than 20. A musical phrase capable of reaching deeper into hearts than was once possible. Like the farmer, their 10,000 hours becomes 20,000 and then 30,000. Their worth, their work, after so many hours of hands in the soil or fingers on the keys, is incalculable.

Awash in abstractions, organizations play by a different set of understandings. Bottom lines are blind to mastery. You’d be amazed (or not) at how many people I know who’ve been “let go” because a younger, less expensive person, might “fill the role” and “cost less.” Mastery as deficit. You’d  be astounded (or not) at how many people I’ve coached who were punished because they became highly efficient. Their life-of-experience made their work look too easy. They were either squeezed for more or released as unnecessary.

What happens when all of the organizational knowledge, the ease and efficiency that comes via experience, becomes a liability? Wearing my consulting hat I’d routinely shake my head at the standard folly of leadership – people in power suits and ties a hundred miles from the dust and grit of the boots-on-the-ground – determining with pencil and paper the time and worth of a task. Abstracting the worth of a life. Budgetary efficiency driving the carefully calculated undervaluation of experience. Actual efficiency red-lined by abstract efficiency. As John would say, “Penny wise and pound foolish.”

Maturity in season of life. It comes from a job description that came across Kerri’s desk. Maturity as a job requirement! A search for someone with the experience necessary to paint like a child. Seeking the mastery that results from years and years of plowing the same fields.

I wonder if the hiring committee merely tossed out flowery language or actually understood that their ideal candidate would come through the door with boots made muddy from a lifetime of walking the fields?

 

read Kerri’s blog post about MATURITY IN SEASON OF LIFE

 

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Hold And Be Held [on KS Friday]

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Tom and I sat on the little deck just off the kitchen of his cabin at the ranch. We watched the sun set on the land his family had owned for generations.  “They’re going to build a Walmart just off McKenzie Road,” he said, not taking his eyes off the setting sun. “That’s about it, I think.” The tide of development would soon gobble up the ranch.

He told me that, without the land, he would not know who he was. It held him. He held it.

It was a complicated relationship. During his life, he’d attempted to flee the land more than once but it would not let him go. During his life, the world tried to take it away from him more than once but he would not let it go.

Tom died on his land. His wife and nephew fought hard to make that possible. They held him and the land together, through their passing. Both are gone now.

Why does a piece of music evoke such a specific memory? Kerri’s YOU HOLD ME always takes me back to that deck and that sunset. A love story. A life story. To hold and be held.

 

YOU HOLD ME on the album THIS PART OF THE JOURNEY available on iTunes & CDBaby

 

read Kerri’s blog post about YOU HOLD ME

 

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you hold me/this part of the journey ©️ 2000 kerri sherwood

Be A Neighbor [on Not So Flawed Wednesday]

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We were in the basement putting away Christmas stuff when John cleared our driveway and sidewalk with his snowblower. We didn’t hear it or I’d have run outside to give him a big bear hug. I discovered his generosity when I pulled on my boots, grabbed my shovel and stepped outside to find a job well done. Coming back in the house Kerri said in jest, “That was quick.” Pretending to be a snow-shoveling-superhero, I said, “Take a look if you doubt my capabilities!”

She immediately doubted my superhero capabilities because she knew the real superhero was John. Like me, she was overwhelmed with his kindness.

If you could order your neighbors on Amazon, you’d be foolish not to pick John and Michele. Seriously, if I could give the world anything it would be the peace of mind that comes  when you have good and caring neighbors. Neighbors who have your back. Neighbors who, without being asked, watch your house when you are away. Neighbors you can call at any moment, at any time of day or night, “help,” and know that they will be happy to be there.  Neighbors who you look forward to hanging out with, who are curious about the world and passionate about what they do.

My parents were good neighbors. They understood and taught me that ‘neighbor’ is not a statement of location. It is active relationship, connective tissue, participation, the most immediate and potent way of making the world a better place. Start where you live.

Later in the afternoon, knowing that John enjoys good beer, we walked to a local micro brewery, debated which beer he’d enjoy the most, bought him a “thank you” crowler and left it on his porch.

Back in our yard, falling backwards into the deep snow, we made snow angels. Laying in our newly minted angels, looking at the clouds, Kerri said, “You know, we’re really lucky.”

True. Very True. We have great neighbors.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about SNOW ANGELS

 

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Be With [on Not So Flawed Wednesday]

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In the cliche’ hall of fame, this phrase probably sits atop the pile: the best present is being present. And, if you stop for a moment and think about it, this phrase is undeniably true. That is the reason it has the top spot in the cliche’ universe.

We gather. The ritual provides the reason. We gather to affirm. To revivify the story. To nourish the one thing that matters: our relationship to one another. The rest is merely accoutrement.

This season I saw many many photos of families gathered around a table. People shared photos of their loved ones standing by a tree, in the snow, on the beach, organized on a staircase, in a kitchen. People traveling to be with their people. On the cards we sent to family and friends we wrote, “Thinking of you.” What we meant was, “Wanting to be with you.”

In the many photos that people shared with me, no one showed me a photo of the stuff they received. No one showed me a photo of the stuff they gave. They showed me the reason they were giving and receiving the stuff. The relationship.

Sometimes it hides in plain sight.

And, since the relationships are the epicenter, there is only one thing that sits atop the pyramid of gifts given and received. And, every day it is the same: presence. Being with.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about THE BEST PRESENT

 

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Do A Rough Draft [on DR Thursday]

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the field in early october: a morsel

I love seeing artists’ rough drafts. One of my all time favorite art exhibits was the hundreds of drawings and sketches John Singer Sargent executed en route to his painting, El Jaleo.

I’m more interested in the process than the final piece. I’m more captivated by the search than the find. That includes my own work as well. For me, the final painting is less a finished piece and more of a pause in the conversation.

It bothers me when a curator tells people what a painting is about or what the artist intended. I’ve squirmed many times during openings of shows when the gallery curator, introducing my work, tells people what my paintings mean. It locks people out. It prevents them from having THEIR relationship with my painting. I squirm equally when the work is not mine. I want a more pure experience.

To me, art is a doorway to the sacred, to the deeper things that words often cannot reach. It is a passage back to the beginning, to the fingerpainter, the child freely playing – prior to the time when a judge is planted between the painter and the piece, the painting and the viewer. That is where the riches are. And in that place it is all a rough draft.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about THE FIELD IN EARLY OCTOBER

 

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a field in early october/morsel ©️ 2018 david robinson & kerri sherwood